"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Tight muscles are a controversial superpower of NBA athletes.

For most individuals, the term “hardness” has a negative connotation. When you get up within the morning complaining of a “stiff back,” treatment might include taking a hot shower, performing some yoga, swallowing aspirin, or seeing a physical therapist to loosen up. Stiffness is mostly considered unpleasant and may limit one's physical activities.

Surprisingly, though, for elite athletes like skilled basketball players, muscle strength will not be only essential, but you possibly can say it's their superpower. As a physical therapist and researcher As someone who works with athletes within the National Basketball Association, I’m occupied with understanding the important thing aspects that help reduce injury risk and maximize performance in elite athletes – and understanding stiffness. It is a vital part.

A professional athlete's jump will be otherworldly.
AP Photo/Nick Wass

A spring in your step

Physiologists consider muscles as biomechanical springs. Muscles generate forces that show you how to move and stretch to permit you a greater range of motion. Stiffness is a way of talking about how tight a muscle is. is a characteristic of How long can it be? In response to applied force. The springiness of the muscle allows it to not only stretch but additionally retract during muscle contraction. This process allows for movement including walking, running and jumping.

The force required to deform or stretch a muscle is expounded to the degree of springiness or stiffness and the extent to which the muscle long. Strength is essential, but toughness will help an athlete develop much more strength.

Basketball is a vertical game. which incorporates 46 jumping and landing activities for individual players per game. This is 2 to 4 times more jumping than football or volleyball. It's also a multi-dimensional sport – a mean player changes direction or activity every 2 to three seconds, requiring constant acceleration and deceleration.

Russell Westbrook shows what a muscle can achieve with the appropriate balance of stiffness and suppleness.
AP Photo/Craig Mitcheldyre

Lower back stiffness is essential for optimal basketball performance because players who properly utilize the high stiffness properties can profit from the flex energy it generates. A muscle can only stretch a lot because its length is proscribed by its stiffness limit. So, like a spring or rubber band, when a muscle is stretched, it helps create stiffness. Elastic energy This can then be used with muscle contractions to show you how to run or jump on the court.

It helps someone. Russell Westbrook Jump within the air, stop on a dime, then speed up down court during a quick break. It takes him Just 3.36 seconds to walk from baseline to baseline.

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However, there may be a degree of diminishing returns. Excessive muscle stiffness can result in decreased joint mobility and reduced shock absorption within the joint. This can put you at greater risk for stress fractures and even osteoarthritis, the breakdown of cartilage that could cause joint pain. Evidence Suggests that an excessive amount of stiffness can result in injury.

And on the opposite side of the spectrum, an athlete needs a certain degree of flexibility and joint mobility to support the right length of muscles and tendons that allow for correct range of motion.

So athletes must balance these extremes, landing within the sweet spot of optimal lower back stiffness: not too high, which might result in higher rates of force and loading and the next risk of bone injuries. . And not much less, for which is related to increased risk. Soft tissue injury and muscle strain.

My research team is investigating these relationships in an effort to assist elite athletes reduce injury risk and maximize performance. The first step is to grasp what are “normal” clinical measurements for elite athletes.

The flip analog measures the degree of ankle motion, called dorsiflexion.
Philip Analogue, CC BY-ND

Textbook values ​​have been established for the final population, but this information is lacking for NBA players. For example, a standard value of ankle flexion for the common person is about 50 to 55 degrees. Our research team found that the common NBA player is more rigid and averages 35 degrees.

When comparing elite basketball players to textbook rules, it could appear that they’re too tight and too passive. However, to reach their sport, this toughness is definitely their superpower. If trainers start stretching LeBron James' muscles to the textbook values ​​of the final population, he might start jumping like the final population. This tactic could thoroughly be kryptonite for an NBA athlete.

Training to reduce injury and maximize performance

Physical therapists know that so-called Fast twitch Muscle fibers – answerable for jumping and running – are larger. trend for hardness. The intensity level will be increased to enhance performance with training.

An athlete performs a plyometric jump—a strong movement that lengthens then quickly shortens the muscle.
Philip Analogue, CC BY-ND

The evidence suggests. plyometric and bound exercises That includes jumps, hops, or bounds, performed in a protracted short cycle, has a positive effect on the muscle's ability to spring back. But overall, your personal stiffness versus spring is a mixture of nature and nurture, genetics and training.

Research on higher understanding the continuum between stiffness and compliance may assist physical therapists and trainers when working with basketball players. They must know dosage – how much to stretch or tighten. work in progress. which contributes to this effort. There are also measures that aim to Understand player load. and the gross physical demands that elite athletes undergo when producing high-speed and powerful movements. Researchers also need to grasp what the perfect methods and technologies are for monitoring these burdens. My colleagues and I theorize that there may be an optimal level of compliance and toughness that helps keep our basketball heroes super.